Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality

Surfing the web is about to become a lot slower and a lot faster at the same time. That is, if politicians and lobbyists get their way in imposing new laws that threaten to end net neutrality.

Net neutrality sounds like a sort of internet peace treaty, and in a way, it is. To put it simply, net neutrality is a term first used in 2003 that simply means that all data on the internet is treated equally, no matter its origin, which is why the internet is such a level playing field. The internet is not broken, yet the United States Federal Communications Commission still aims to fix it.

The  FCC has proposed a two tiered system for internet data lanes. This would allow internet providers to charge companies to send data to users on better channels for faster and more reliable service. This would mean that a site like Youtube, the world’s largest video streaming site, would have an inherent advantage over a startup competitor that would not have the resources to get content to users as quickly. It essentially makes the government and cable providers together a digital monopoly with the power to create other internet monopolies, which is not a good thing at all.

Cable providers claim that the difference in speed will be like a fast lane for low tier users and a “hyper speed” lane for those that pay a higher premium for service. Skeptics believe, with good reason, that this would not be the case. They believe that this would cause cable companies to create speeds akin to dial-up for low tier users with little change in speeds for high tier users. Cable companies however claim that they would never slow down a site’s  speeds to get more money from them, but evidence points to this claim being false. Last year, Comcast, wanting more money for their service, began negotiations with Netflix. When the movie streaming company refused to comply with higher costs, Comcast slowed down Netflix download speeds by close to fifty percent.

What is being proposed by the government and cable providers is so inflammatory that not just activists are up in arms about it. Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and many other large internet companies have signed on to the cause to keep the internet free and equal. The fact that these companies have signed on has shown that they will not benefit from these new proposals. In that case, the question becomes, “Who will benefit then?”

The simple answer is the government and cable companies. Cable giant comcast last year lobbied the second highest amount of money to the government, only falling behind defense contractor Northrop Grumman. The cable companies have so much influence on the government that in 2013, President Obama named Tom Wheeler, a top lobbyist for cable companies as the chairman of the FCC, meaning a former lobbyist is tasked with regulating other lobbyists.

        This is not just an issue that affects a small number of Americans, it impacts the entire world. This decision from the FCC could spell the end of a truly free internet.